Brazil: impunity stimulates illegal deforestation in Mato Grosso’s Amazon

Brazil: impunity stimulates illegal deforestation in Mato Grosso’s Amazon

The combination of illegal deforestation and impunity continues to be the main motor behind the devastation of forests in Mato Grosso. A technical report released by the Instituto Centro de Vida (Life Center Institute – ICV) points out that, between August 2018 and July 2019, 85% of deforestation mapped by the National Institute of Spatial Research (Inpe) in the state was illegal.

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In total, 1,685 km2 of forest in Mato Grosso were cleared. The number represents 17% of the total registered for the whole Amazon (the second highest percentage, after the State of Pará) and a 13% increase over the previous year. According to the report, the result signals that the rhythm of forest destruction in the state “remains alarming”. With the highest rate of deforestation in the last 11 years, in 2019 there was more than double the area deforested in 2012, which was 757 km2. This also means that it is the fifth consecutive year in which the state maintains rates above 1,480 km2/year, distancing itself from the deforestation reduction goals taken on in 2015, during the Paris Climate Conference.

The situation is made worse by the lack of enforcement, which is not able to contain the illegal deforestation even in areas already included in the Rural Environmental Register (CAR). According to the ICV, 56% of all the deforestation (959 km2) occurred in rural properties with a registration already completed at least one time; that is, properties with their location, boundaries and landowners already known by the authorities.

In this group, more than half of the clearings were concentrated in large rural properties (larger than 1,500 hectares), followed by medium properties, that possess between 400 and 1,500 hectares (28%). The polygons were larger than 50 hectares in 82% of the cases of deforestation on private properties. “Half of all the deforestation on registered areas occurred, however, on large rural properties and on polygons larger than 50 hectares; that is, in areas easily detectable by monitoring systems through satellite images”, the ICV report points out.

Furthermore, separating out authorized deforestation and analyzing only illegal deforestation, the study identified that 74% of all the illegality happened on only 1,065 rural properties, which represents little more than 1% of the all registered properties. “This means there are few rural properties that do not follow the forest legislation and put at risk the legality and sustainability of Mato Grosso’s agricultural production”.

Map showing distribution of the deforestation mapped between August 2018 and July 2019 by land type.
Distribution of the deforestation mapped between August 2018 and July 2019 by land type


With 196 km2 of new open areas, Colniza was the municipality with the largest area deforested in Mato Grosso in 2019. Neighboring Aripuanã municipality assumed second place in the ranking, with 156 km2. “These, together with 6 other municipalities, accounted for 52% of all the deforestation mapped, which was concentrated mainly in the North and Northwest regions”, the study says.

When looking at the municipality level, the prevalence of this illegality becomes even more evident: of the 70 municipalities in the state where there was some register of clearing in the period analyzed by Inpe, in 34, 100% was classified as illegal. “The other 36 municipalities presented some area with legal deforestation, but even so the average legality among them was only 20%”, ICV points out. Nova Mutum was the municipality with the largest legally deforested area (27 km2), followed by Cláudia (22 km2) and União do Sul (21 km2).

Settlements and protected areas

Deforestation was also registered in agricultural reform settlement projects (PA), accounting for 11% of the total, with the Nova Cotriguaçu and Japuranomam PAs having the largest open areas in 2019, corresponding to 14% of all the forest cleared in this category. Protected areas, for their part, accounted for only 1.2% of deforested areas, with 1.1% being indigenous lands and 0.1% being conservation units.

Map showing concentration of the deforestation mapped between August 2018 and July 2019 in the Mato Grosso Amazon.
Concentration of the deforestation mapped between August 2018 and July 2019 in the Mato Grosso Amazon.